1887

Abstract

Madagascar has just emerged from the grip of an acute urban pneumonic plague outbreak, which began in August 2017, before the usual plague season of October–April and outside the traditional plague foci in the northern and central highlands. The World Health Organization reported a total of 2417 confirmed, probable and suspected cases, including 209 deaths between 1 August and 26 November 2017. The severity and scope of this outbreak, which has affected those in higher socioeconomic groups as well as those living in poverty, along with factors including the potential for use of multi-drug-resistant strains of plague in bioterrorism, highlights the ongoing threat posed by this ancient disease. Factors likely to have contributed to transmission include human behaviour, including burial practices and movement of people, poor urban planning leading to overcrowding and ready transmission by airborne droplets, climatic factors and genomic subtypes. The outbreak demonstrates the importance of identifying targeted pneumonic plague therapies and of developing vaccines that can be administered in planned programmes in developing countries such as Madagascar where plague is endemic. The dominance of pneumonic plague in this outbreak suggests that we need to focus more urgently on the danger of person-to-person transmission, as well as the problem of transmission of plague from zoonotic sources.

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2019-01-11
2019-10-15
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